Chapter 562.1: Public Opinion

Qin Yining leaned on Pang Xiao’s shoulder and asked languidly, “Are you familiar with the manor that the emperor has arranged for us?” 

“I’ve heard about it before,” Pang Xiao smiled, “and there’s only so many imperial manors around the capital. I just didn’t pay much attention to it before.” 

“Since he readied it for us, he must’ve picked one you aren’t familiar with,” Qin Yining sniffed. “He’s likely already completed whatever nefarious arrangements he has for us. 

“But we don’t need to worry about any of that today. The emperor’s already gone this far and he’s only one step away from his goal. For the sake of his reputation, we’ll definitely be safe tonight.” 

Hearing that, Pang Xiao couldn’t help but pull his wife closer and kiss her hand. He’d planned on comforting and steadying her mood, but she’d just taken all of the words out of his mouth. It had to be said, having a wife as smart and knowledgeable as Qin Yining was truly a blessing for someone like him, always on the run and never spending a day in peace.

Their wagon slowly rolled to a halt in front of the manor outside of the capital. Palace servants sent to staff it quickly flung open the gates to reveal eunuchs and maids kneeling in two rows around the walkway.

“Greetings to the Faithful Prince and Princess Consort of the First Rank!” 

Pang Xiao found the ostentatious display hilarious and whispered next to his wife's ear, “Are you tired? Ignore all that for now, let's go in and rest up first.” 

Qin Yining nodded with a smile. When she saw Pang Xiao step off from the carriage, she also raised the door curtain to alight. However, Pang Xiao took her hand as soon as she reached out and pulled her into a bridal carry, striding into the manor. 

The maids and eunuchs didn’t dare raise their heads. To observe their master and mistress like that would be the height of impudence! Eyes resolutely trained on the ground, all they saw was a pair of black boots striding past. Only when they heard footsteps fade into the distance did they finally dare sneak surreptitious glances around, but still keeping their heads down as they shuffled into the manor in straight lines. 

Qin Yining was uncomfortable with Pang Xiao carrying her into the manor at first; she slowly felt a little more at ease when she saw that no one dared look at them. She rolled her eyes at him and whispered with a beet red face, “It’s not like my legs are injured, there’s no need for this.” 

“True, your legs aren’t injured, but you haven’t been able to eat or sleep well this entire journey. Just looking at you makes my heart ache. It’s just a few steps, so let me do this for you.” 

His words only induced further shyness. Qin Yining decided that what she couldn’t see didn’t count and closed her eyes, leaning in and dozing into his chest. 

Their entourage arrived in the main hall of the main building before long. 

A dignified senior palace maid of roughly thirty years old stepped forward with a curtsey. “Your Highness, His Majesty has instructed for you and the princess consort to reside in the main building. Everything has already been readied and prepared.” 

Pang Xiao felt this maid looked a bit familiar and inquired about her previous work stations. 

“In response to Your Highness, this servant is Lanchi and previously served in the empress dowager’s palace.” 

Pang Xiao nodded; he did indeed remember seeing her on his visits. 

Lanchi was indeed part of the empress dowager’s household, but she'd also been the head overseer for the Grand Princess of Anyang before the princess married Ji Zeyu. When the princess later set up her own household outside of the palace, Lanchi hadn’t gone with her for some reason and instead stayed with the empress dowager. 

“I hadn’t expected His Majesty to arrange for Auntie Lanchi to come, this prince is overcome with gratitude and fear. This prince cannot thank Auntie Lanchi enough for taking care of my wife.” 

Lanchi dipped in a curtsey, gently protesting the compliments and calling the other servants forward. Together, they led Pang Xiao and Qin Yining’s group into the main hall. 

Although the Great Zhou capital was located further south than Tatar, it was still considered overall to be in the north. As such, the weather was a bit chilly though the days approached the fifth month of the year. 

In the primary hall of the main residence, braziers heaped with fine, glittering charcoal wafted smokeless heat. Everything was neat and orderly, the room adorned in a luxurious and cozy fashion. 

Pang Xiao carefully set Qin Yining on the padded platform in the bedroom and turned to address the crowd of servants, “My consort is quite far along in her pregnancy and prefers quiet. There is no need to enter and serve us unless you receive orders to the contrary. Lanchi will be enough.” 

The servants withdrew with sounds of acknowledgement, and they all heaved sighs of relief when they were out of the room. Thank goodness they didn’t have to stay in the same room with the Faithful Prince of the First Rank! 

Lanchi wore a smile while she directed the servants to adjust the room for their masters before giving orders to prepare food. 

Pang Xiao narrowed his eyes slightly before ordering, “Have them prepare food for the others first. The palace will be sending over imperial physicians, so my consort’s needs must be consulted with them first.” 

Lanchi’s steps paused as she immediately grasped the prince’s meaning. The palace servants were not to tamper with Her Highness’ food. He was still a valued subject in the emperor’s eyes, else there wouldn’t have been such a grand welcome nor so many palace servants sent to serve them in the manor. Imperial physicians would’ve also never been sent to Her Highness otherwise.

“Of course, this servant will follow His Highness’ orders,” Lanchi hastily assented. “This servant wouldn’t dare to neglect Her Highness’ diet in the slightest.”

Instead of responding immediately, Pang Xiao looked down solemnly. 

Lanchi was still dipped in a curtsey, one foot behind her, head down and bent from the waist. Her calf was close to spasming from cramps, but she knew she had to maintain her position no matter how much she shook. She could feel Pang Xiao’s razor-sharp stare stabbing into her back, and for a second, she even thought she’d be dragged outside and executed on the spot.

Just as Lanchi was about to burst into terrified tears, a soft feminine voice sounded from beside her. “Alright, now what are you doing?”

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